Special guest blog by Greg Oates, hotel media strategist
We’ve spent a lot of time at VFM Leonardo discussing ways to tell your hotel’s stories through visual storytelling and content marketing. But a lot of hotel marketing professionals are not sure exactly what those stories are. Or how to tell them. Or if they’re worth telling.
It’s easy to come up with stories if you’re promoting a luxurious resort with amenities out the wazoo. But what about the hotel without a lot of extras?
If you have a Happy Hour, you have a story. If you have a special package promotion, you have a story. If you have human beings working in your hotel, you have stories. But let’s say, for the moment, that you feel you have absolutely nothing at your hotel worth telling a story about. First, there’s probably something going on in your local area worth discussing. Second, it might be time to start creating some stories.
Before you can tell your stories, you need a platform to do so. More and more hotels are building blogs into their websites, or you can simply add a page or two to your website to provide fresh content. And nothing is better for search engine optimization than fresh content.
A good example of a simple set of webpages to tell a story is Bardesonno in Napa. There’s an opening page with beautiful photography and a brief story about Lucy Restaurant’s garden. There are complementary pages displaying updated events, menus and more photos, which do a great job engaging the reader and increasing the length of time a reader stays on the website. Longer and higher average page views correlate with higher direct bookings.
This is incredibly easy for any hotel to create and manage, especially with new hotel content management systems like WIHP, which provide seamless ways for hotel execs to update fresh content.
Bardessono is a luxury hotel with an amazing story. But any hotel in any budget category with a restaurant can create something similar. Create stories about your menu specials, Happy Hour, banquet themes, testimonials from past guests, a chef’s bio, for example, all supported with the best possible photography and videos.
What are your hotel’s unique selling points, your differentiators within your competitive set? Those are stories. If value, service or even your pet-friendly policy are USPs, show how with both visuals and content. If you have a new airport transfer van, that’s a story. You may feel it lacks a “wow” factor, but if it’s of value to your guests, it’s a story.
My point here is to illustrate that stories exist everywhere, even at the most basic level of hospitality.
The trick, of course, is to make those stories as interesting as possible. That requires creativity from hotel executives. We can’t wring blood out of a stone here, so if there’s nothing going on, then it’s time to create something that differentiates your product in some way, whether it’s a new weekly special event, a social media contest or a new hire.
It also might require contracting a writer to help shape those stories into impactful storytelling. Or, find someone on staff who’s proficient with writing, photography or both.
The Benjamin in Manhattan has received big buzz for its Sleep Concierge program, for example. It’s basically nothing more than a pillow menu on steroids, with innovative storytelling highlighted on the hotel’s website. The story theme is not about good pillows. It’s about the value of a good night’s sleep. That’s storytelling.
Another way to source stories is from the local neighborhood. It’s also a good way to find great imagery for free if you’re crediting and promoting the owner of those visuals.
One example is Sheraton Denver Downtown, which has a blog describing area events. There is room for improvement in terms of its visual impact, but it’s a start. A great example is the Independent Collection hotel group with neighborhood guides for all of their northeast USA properties,
Is there a new restaurant near you appropriate for your guest demographic? It doesn’t even have to be new, just interesting. How about a museum, festival, shop, bike rental place, park, theater or anything for that matter that’s of interest to your guests?
Profile those. Become a community portal online and support your fellow local businesses. They’ll reciprocate. Hyperlocal travel is the biggest trend in travel today, where both leisure and business guests are looking for that in-the-know local experience.
You can provide that information with a relatively minimal investment in time and resources once you have a system in place. The ROI is proven.
It will make your hotel’s website a much more interesting place to visit. Meaning, it will make your hotel a much more interesting place to book.
For more information on sharing a dynamic story online, download VFM Leonardo’s free eBook: Anatomy of a Visual-First Website: Best Practices for Hotel Marketers
About Greg Oates
Greg Oates is a travel editor and publisher of 200rooms.com, profiling innovative small hotels and their role in local tourism development. Greg also works closely with hotel professionals to help them reach guests through content marketing strategies, visual storytelling and media relations.